For a big city–12 million people and counting–Paris doesn’t have the kinds of skyscrapers you might expect. Aside from a few carefully segregated clusters, most of Paris’s buildings aren’t more than five or six stories tall.
That, of course, is quite deliberate. When the Tour Montparnasse was built in the mid-1970s–weighing in at 689 feet tall–it looked completely out of place, grotesque even. For Parisians, always so protective of their city’s style–it just would not do. They couldn’t tear it down, but they could impose a height limit on any new buildings. Which is exactly what they did. After 1977, the Paris city council decreed that any new buildings could be no taller than 121 feet. It was only in 2010 that that limit was partially relaxed for some areas of the city.1
Despite that lack of tall buildings–or more accurately, because of that–Paris has one of the world’s most distinctive skylines. There’s nothing on the skyline to compete with the unique profiles of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and Sacre Couer. And they are oh-so-Parisian.